Heriot-Watt projects through to the 2020 Kickstart Challenge



L-R: Adam Kosterka Enterprise Outreach Executive and Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge

A biodegradable coffee cup made from coffee waste; a sensor that checks if runway conditions are safe during aircraft approach and landing; a patent pending solution for the diagnosis and therapy of 'lazy eye', a condition affecting 230 million children worldwide – these are just some of the ground-breaking ideas emerging from this year's pool of KickStart semi-finalists. 

32 trail-blazing entrepreneurs from across Scotland's world-class universities are now through to the next stage of the Converge KickStart Challenge, an early-stage entrepreneurial development programme for university staff, students and recent graduates across Scotland.  This includes two innovative projects from Heriot-Watt University.

Among them is Spyridon Daskalakis from LORAB who has developed an ultra, low-cost sensor system enabling large-scale, precision farming applications.  Aiming to disrupt the Agri-Tech sector, LORAB sensors can communicate over 100s of metres without the need for batteries. The data can also be read via standard smartphone devices. With climate change having far-reaching impacts on agricultural production, farmers will no longer be able to make decisions based on their own experience. Spyridon's sensor system offers a novel alternative enabling long-term precision monitoring to radically improve farmland production and the sustainable use of resources. 

It's great to see a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland joining the fight to keep our planet not only surviving but thriving.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo

Aimed at innovative projects embarking on the first steps of the commercialisation journey, KickStart helps academic entrepreneurs, from all sectors, test and validate their business ideas with the aim of establishing commercial viability. Technology and Engineering, Life Sciences and the Creative Industries are the most represented sectors this year with a significant proportion of projects focused on solving critical environmental problems such as pollution, climate change and waste reduction.  

This includes Hugo Sardinha from Heriot-Watt University with Buoyant Intelligent Robotic Drones (BIRD), an aerial robotics company bringing efficiency, safety and reliability to wind turbine inspection. The company is developing a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles with extended run-times that will enable more reliable and cost-effective monitoring of wind power generation assets. This could in turn extend the lifespan of wind turbine assets, encouraging more companies to invest in larger farms.

From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks and what starts with an idea, with a lightbulb moment, can in time turn out to be a major business success story. This week for instance, 2014 KickStart winner, Chris McCann, CEO of Current Health announced a $11.5m investment round.  2020 shows all the signs of being just as prolific a year with incredibly innovative and impactful projects being shortlisted for the 2020 KickStart programme.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, is delighted with the range and diversity of this year's projects and comments:

“Every year we wait for the KickStart application deadline with trepidation, not knowing how many or what type of projects will come through. However, the breadth and creativity of applications that the challenge attracts never fail to disappoint and this year is no exception.

It's also heartening to see so many universities responding to the climate emergency by supporting many incredible ideas and innovations that have the power to change lives.  It's great to see a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland joining the fight to keep our planet not only surviving but thriving.”

We look forward to working with our KickStart cohort in the months ahead and helping them refine and validate their early-stage business ideas through customer discovery training, pitch coaching and the wrap-around support offered by our team and partners”

Semi-finalists will now be invited to take part in two days of intensive business training designed specifically for academic entrepreneurs.  They will then be asked to submit a business case with the very best asked to pitch at an Awards Final in February with one lucky winner taking home a £10,000 cash prize.  A runner-up will also receive £5,000 in cash.


Leanne Muldowney

Marketing & Communications Manager (Enterprise)

e: leanne.muldowney@hw.ac.uk